Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

Ed Brayton, on his blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars, started a bit of an exchange over slavery and the Bible with his post Slavery and the Bible, which was answered over on In The Agora by Eric Seymour in his post Does the Bible condone slavery?. Just so you have the whole story, Ed then responded in Slavery and the Bible, Take 2.

It seems in this exchange that Ed, who states that he “can no longer accept the Bible as the word of God,” seems to be able to read it with refreshing clarity, while its defenders seem to need to work around what the Bible actually says in order to get it to mean what they would prefer it to. The comments from those giving an “Amen” to Eric Seymour’s response are even more revealing than the original article. I hope you will read the comments as well as the article itself. One poster, John R., states: “I don’t expect, however, this Ed’s unbelief will be alleviated by the truth. When one has put his own moral authority above God’s, there’s not much room left convincing.” But assuming that what John R. has found in the Bible is God’s moral authority, John R. should realize that one can as easily put one’s own authority over that of the written message by weasel-worded interpretations as by simply rejecting a particular concept outright.

Though my intention is not to deal with the specific interpretation in detail, I’m concerned that this particular defense of the Bible could lead to immoral behavior in itself. It distinguishes between the 19th century American variety of slavery and the Biblical variety as a reason why the Bible might not condemn slavery. That, of course, ignores the difference between slavery as practiced between Israelites (the rules they cite, as Ed correctly notes), and the practice of slavery in the Roman empire which is what Paul failed to condemn. But would Israelite style slavery, i.e. indenture for indebtedness, be a moral option today? Is this really what Christians should feel comfortable arguing? Should we be able to have a debtor sold into slavery, and provide rules to allow how much he or she can be beaten? Is this a moral position we really want to take?

But back to the subject. If we take the basic approach to scripture that both of these arguments are taking, and accept that if something is condoned in the Bible, then the Bible condones it, then the answer is clear and obvious–the Bible condones slavery. There really is no way around this. People who are convinced that it must not be so will continue to believe that they have somehow chopped up the evidence, but it is still there. Ed can see it. Apparently some of my fellow Christians cannot.

But let’s take another step down this path. Does the Bible condone or command things that we would consider immoral? I could go through a list of laws from the Torah that would make most modern people shudder. (There are those who think they should apply, which makes me shudder!) But there’s a pretty clear case in Numbers 31. Here the Israelites have attacked an enemy, one that they consider grossly immoral and deserving of extreme treatment. Let’s leave aside any debate about the level of guilt of the opposing party, and simply accept that the Israelites had a right to be angry at their opponents. Assuming this, let’s look at the treatment commanded, and then accorded to the enemy:

Let’s look at the characteristics of this war (all verses from Numbers 31):

  1. They did battle to execute YHWH’s vengeance (v. 3)
  2. They killed every male (v. 7)
  3. They took the women captive (v. 9)
  4. Well, not quite all the males; they took the little ones captive (v. 9)
  5. They burned everything left (v. 10)
  6. They took the spoil and the captives to their camp (v. 12)

If any of you are acquainted with ancient near eastern records, this is not an atypical battle. This sort of thing happened all the time. The Israelites are behaving much like their neighbors, with the exception that they seem to have killed a few more people and taken less captive, but even that difference is marginal. There is even an attribution of the authority behind the attack to their god, just as would be fairly common in other ancient near eastern inscriptions.

Before we go on, let me ask you: Is there any enemy of the United States that you believe should morally be accorded this treatment? To be precise, an enemy whose country we could destroy completely, killing every adult male, irrespective of their specific, personal guilt or innocence and taking all the women and children captive? In modern terms, is this a moral act?

Well, let’s see what the reaction is to the return of the warriors. Moses is indeed angry at them (v. 14), but his anger is not at how many they killed, but rather at who they left alive. They left alive all the adult women. Here comes the command of Moses:

17Now kill every boy among the children, and every woman who has known a man by having sexual relations {sleeping with} him. 18But every girl who has not known a man by having sexual relations with him, keep alive for yourselves.

In the end, it turned out that there was quite a number of female slaves left for the people to have “for themselves.” Continue to read to the end of the chapter to get the story.

May I ask again, would there be an enemy group or nation against whom you would consider this a moral action, even assuming that nation to be thoroughly despicable?

So if we ask the question, “Does the Bible condone slaughtering your enemies?” the answer must be “Yes.” Again, this is based on the same type of interpretation that has been used in defending the Bible from the charge of condoning slavery.

At this point, many of those who are still reading will be thinking I’m about to declare that the Bible is not God’s word, and that I’m going to have nothing to do with it. But in fact I’m a Christian and a Bible teacher, and I love the Bible. What I think is going on here is that we have entirely the wrong set of expectations of the Bible and of divine revelation.

How do we determine what it is that the Bible is supposed to be? I find that people have quite an assortment of expectations for the Bible, or for any book claiming to contain “God’s word.” Then, based often on those very expectations, they produce interpretations that cause the Bible to say what it is that they want it to say. Clearer thinkers see what the Bible is actually saying and start questioning the foundation, and then either reject the Bible because it does not fulfill expectations, or change the expectations. It’s pretty easy for the latter two groups to condemn one another. Those who reject the Bible claim that those who change the expectations are moving the goalposts, or something similar, while those who change the expectations accuse those who reject the Bible of accepting the fundamentalists’ standard.

It’s not my intent to condemn anyone here. I think it’s easy to rationally disagree on the point. The problem is that we really don’t have any external standard by which to decide just what God’s word should contain and what it should accomplish. We make assumptions, or create lists, but these are either derived from our own hopes and dreams, or are extracted from something we already regard as scripture. An earnest, well-educated Muslim friend of mine tried to convince me that the Qur’an is God’s word. It was clear that it made him joyful. “It provides an answer for every detail of my life,” he said. I answered that I didn’t find that an attractive feature in a book of scripture. It was really very difficult to discuss from that point, because the question became just what I should want in my holy book. Without a holy book telling you that, just how do you determine what you want?

(I’ve discussed inspiration in general quite extensively elsewhere. I’d suggest my primary essay Inspiration, Biblical Authority, and Inerrancy, and my inspiration series, which is listed in my Post Series page. This also lists series of posts on Biblical Criticism and on origins. I have found that most people who wander by to condemn me for my views don’t bother to read them in any detail, but I at least have not provided an excuse!)

So how do I see the word of God? First, I don’t regard the Bible as the equivalent of the word of God. While it conveys the God’s messages, and is an expression of the word of God, the actual word of God is much more than that. The Biblical view is that everything is the product of God’s word.

6By the word of YHWH the heavens were made,
And all their host by the breath of his mouth.

Thus the scientist doing field work is also studying God’s word, specifically a product of it. That is why I am extremely distressed to see Christians doing shoddy science and making poorly thought out claims in the name of science in order to defend some theological preconception. A Christian doing science should do the work with the awareness that he is playing with the product of God’s word. This doesn’t mean that he will discover God by the scientific method. Rather, it means that he will examine an expression of God by that means. (Intelligent design fails theologically, in my view, on precisely this point. All nature is equally the product of God. The idea of detecting God more in one place than another using the scientific method certainly is certainly not a search for the God I know.)

In the scripture, I believe we have a record, not of God’s pronouncements on all things, though there are some pronouncements, but rather, of God’s interaction with people. There is a human/divine combination in scripture. The people are not perfect. They are not even close. Some are despicable. But God works with them, and we have the record of the interaction. We should not expect to go back to the beginning of our relationship with God and find the same moral standards that we have at a later point. More importantly, we should expect every expression in scripture to occur in a cultural matrix, and to apply to a particular situation. When Romans 13 says that the authorities are given their authority by God so we should be subject to them, we can rightly ask just what were the circumstances that brought for that declaration. In fact, this was Paul’s practical, pastoral advice to the church in Rome at a time when Christians saw Rome more as a defender than as a persecutor. Their fear, at that time, was of persecution by Jews. Later, the fear became changed.

I use an illustration in my essay (Inspiration, Biblical Authority, and Inerrancy that I think helps to understand what I’m trying to say.

How the Bible impacts our understanding

The point here is that the primary method of extracting data from the Bible in modern, conservative Christianity is the picture on the right. The Bible stands between the person and God, mediating what God has said. I’m advocating the approach on the left in which one listens to God directly, as well as through all available avenues, while the experience of scripture enlightens one’s own process of doing God’s will. Dr. Alden Thompson discusses some similar ideas (though he’s somewhat more conservative than I am) in his essay God’s Word: Casebook or Codebook. He also discusses some of these same issues in his book Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God?.

Now some are still going to ask how I handle the really nasty material I pointed out from Numbers 31, which is certainly not the only nasty occasion in the Bible. I have no problem there. The actions described are morally wrong. I think our expectations can change over time, and that we need to avoid judging something from the 2nd millenium BCE from our 21st century CE standards. But if you’re looking to the Bible to contain a codebook of good things to do and bad things to avoid, then Numbers 31 is a problem for you, because it involves a command to do a bad thing. For me this says that the Israelites acted in accordance with their culture and time, and that God led them in some ways, while in others they were not ready to be led.

And to be blunt, I see Paul’s advice on slaves as a practical matter. I certainly don’t expect Paul to advocate a slave revolt. For revolution, you need the possibility of success. A slave revolt in the 1st century would have been a bad idea. The underground railroad in the 19th century was a good idea. Unfortunately when we nitpick through the Biblical commands in order to make them fit a pattern, things don’t work so well. What the folks who started and maintained the underground railroad had to do was discover a moral imperative in their own time and place, using their own minds, and carry it out.

Again, does the Bible condone slavery? By my view and method of interpretation, “The Bible” doesn’t do anything of the sort. It provides examples of someone condoning slavery. But the Bible is not a substitute for the human mind reading it, or the Spirit of Truth guiding that mind. The Bible can provide light. It doesn’t make moral decisions. Pretending it does will only bring trouble.

28 thoughts on “Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

  1. I came here through the link in Dispatches From The Cultural Wars, and I hjave to congratulate you for your excellent article! Your ideas were well thought out and expressed.

    I may not agree with you, but I disagrtee with you a whole lot less than some of the other so-called “Christian” writers on the web!

  2. I also came here through Ed Brayton’s blog. Like J-Dog, I too thoroughly enjoyed your post but you lost me right at the end when you provided your conclusion. I would be most appreciative if you would clarify your point that the Bible doesn’t condone slavery.

    I believe I followed your logic where I think you may have been stating that God doesn’t condone the type of behavior you bring up in Numbers and the verses where the authors of the Bible provide regulatory commands on slavery. But how do you conclude the Bible doesn’t condone these two activities? As Ed pointed out, Biblical authors quite clearly in numerous books condone mass murder and slavery. So please iliuminate how the Bible doesn’t condone this behavior when its explicitly stated as such.

  3. Mike Heath commented:

    But how do you conclude the Bible doesn’t condone these two activities? As Ed pointed out, Biblical authors quite clearly in numerous books condone mass murder and slavery. So please iliuminate how the Bible doesn’t condone this behavior when its explicitly stated as such.

    Having read your comment and my last paragraph, I must agree that my concluding statements were not a model of clarity. I’m not really sure how to rescue my last paragraph, but I’ll try.


    Again, does the Bible condone slavery? It does, but by my view and method of interpretation, it should not be used to do anything of the sort. The Bible is not a substitute for the human mind reading it, or the Spirit of Truth guiding that mind. The Bible can provide light. It doesn’t make moral decisions. Pretending it does will only bring trouble.


    The point is that in my view of moral decision making there is no one-to-one relationship between something that a Bible writer condones or condemns and the correct moral decision for me today. That decision making process involves my own mind and other sources of knowledge.

    This entry was posted on Saturday, March 25th,

  4. ” I certainly don’t expect Paul to advocate a slave revolt. ”

    However, Paul could have said that it was wrong for Christians to own slaves. That they should free any slaves that they own, and work against slavery.

  5. “That decision making process involves my own mind and other sources of knowledge.”

    So where does the Bible fit in? Can you just turn ‘on and off’ its relevancy?

    I mean, since all of it is set in a 2000-year old culture, how do you decide what applies to today? Things like the “thou shalt not”s seem explicit, but can’t one – with this method of interpretation – make a case for disregarding any phrase in the Bible?

    I am no Christian and have no real Bible background, but like all the rest here, your post was very interesting.

  6. I really appreciate your illustration but I do disagree with the statement that one on the right describes a modern conservative conception. I belong to a great church that runs a vast spectrum from right to left. The major unifying factor in our church is that by and large the members of my church approach their relationship with Christ and their faith from your illustration on the left. In fact my pastor got into a discussion about violence in the bible and explained it in much the fashion you do here.

    Arun said, So where does the Bible fit in? Can you just turn ‘on and off’ its relevancy?

    I mean, since all of it is set in a 2000-year old culture, how do you decide what applies to today? Things like the “thou shalt not

  7. Excellent article. As a deist with strong Christian sympathies, I yearn for such clarity and honesty from Christians daily – especially in light of all the garbage out there.

  8. A agree with Chuck. I know pleny of Christians in my life with reasonable well thought out ideas. But everyone with a microphone seems like an idiot. Great article.

  9. Henry,

    In your other essay, you wrote:
    “The primary goal of authority in spiritual matters is in developing the personal experience with God. A believer recognizes the authority in something written or spoken because the message matches what is given by the spirit to the individual.”

    The hidden assumption in your statement is that we can reliably identify things given to us “by the spirit”. Having met sincere, devout believers from a number of faiths, I can assure you that the feeling that one’s beliefs are given “by the spirit” is not unique to Christians.

    Your Muslim friend may find that the Quran resonates with the beliefs given to him by the spirit. Yet he believes that Jesus is a prophet, not divine, contrary to the beliefs of most Christians. If Muslims and Christians can disagree sincerely on this, both groups holding that their beliefs are in agreement with what they have been given “by the spirit”, then it seems to me that humans are either not so good at identifying what comes from the spirit, or that what comes from the spirit is not necessarily the truth.

  10. However, Paul could have said that it was wrong for Christians to own slaves. That they should free any slaves that they own, and work against slavery.

    I have two responses for this, because I’m honestly not sure which is right. First, I’m uncertain that actually freeing all Christian slaves would have been the right move at the time. Treating them as family without changing their legal status, which is what Paul seemed to advocate, might have been the best move. I’m not certain what the social impact would have been. But second, I don’t see Paul as always having the ideal solution. Paul is, in my view, in a dialogue with God, and thus may well make less than the best practical choice.

    I would apply this, for example, to his statement of the ideal that in Christ there is no more “male or female, slave or free,” an ideal which I don’t think he carries out in his ministry, though I should note that Gordon Fee makes a fairly good case that Paul was much less “down” on women than we normally think.

  11. I really appreciate your illustration but I do disagree with the statement that one on the right describes a modern conservative conception.

    All generalizations are wrong at some point, and this one is no exception. I will acknowledge that there are many conservative Christians who don’t fit the description on the right. However, in my experience, the vast majority of those who adhere strongly to Biblical inerrancy, especially those who make it an essential doctrine, use the approach on the right.

    Waiting for the next exception . . . 🙂

  12. So where does the Bible fit in? Can you just turn ‘on and off’ its relevancy?

    I think I’ll make a complete post on the matter of decision making. Thanks for asking the question, which is surely relevant. My brief response is that I’m always interested in what the Bible has to say, but that I always have to consider the cultural context. That makes the applicability quite variable.

  13. Your Muslim friend may find that the Quran resonates with the beliefs given to him by the spirit.

    Absolutely. In fact, I can tell you that my Muslim friend does find that the Qur’an resonates with what he hears from the Spirit. (I capitalize here simply not to prejudice the issue of how right or wrong he may be.

    . . . it seems to me that humans are either not so good at identifying what comes from the spirit, or that what comes from the spirit is not necessarily the truth.

    I choose option ‘b’ which is why I advocate a secular society and separation of church and state. Spiritual perceptions are so unreliable that one should never allow the slightest amount of force in spiritual matters. This is where I think Chrsitianity has repeatedly gone wrong, and where a portion of Islam is currently going wrong. Religion will mess up the state and the state will mess up religion.

    Bottom line, however, is that I don’t have to make a decision on someone else’s spirituality. I think that spirituality is very error tolerant, as long as we avoid the fatal error of force. (Emotional manipulation is pretty dangerous too, but without the aspect of physical/legal force, I think it is more likely to be self-correcting.

  14. Neufeld’s Christians apologetics are, based on this single post, non-biblical. I should say I refer only to those points that I understood, because some of the writing was, for me, impenetrable.

    There is at least one point I do agree with, that there is no theological significance to the difference between American slavery and Roman slavery. Whether or not slavery in the Americas gets a pass (it doesn’t) is not based on the degree of its cruelty.

    Neufeld writes:

    “If we take the basic approach to scripture that both of these arguments are taking, and accept that if something is condoned in the Bible, then the Bible condones it, then the answer is clear and obvious–the Bible condones slavery.”

    This is the wrong conclusion due to a biased way of presenting the dilemma. Yes, if something is condoned by the bible, then the bible condones it. But that is meant to trap Ed’s detractors into admitting that the bible condones American or Roman slavery, given that it clearly condoned Jewish slavery in the Old Testament. It omits a crucial distinction: If God commands something, it is not evil. The same act, carried out by men without the authority of God’s command, can be evil.

    The difference between Jewish slavery and Roman or American is quite obvious: one form was commanded by God, the other two were not. Similar to a point from another thread, Joshua’s slaughters were commanded by God, the Rwandan massacres were not. God does not have to announce that genocide or slavery is evil, it is easily deduced from biblical teaching.

    You do have add to the discussion one fact make any sense of it all, and it’s one truth that neither non-Christians nor liberal Christians will affirm: Man is sinful and in rebellion towards God from birth (from conception, actually):

    Surely I was sinful at birth, [I was] sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Ps 51:5, NIV)

    God has every right to annihilate us all, but He chose some on which to display mercy. Why? I don’t know. The question is not why various “ites” were slaughtered, but why the Jews, who were no less evil, escaped God’s wrath. God can exact vengeance on any man or nation without his morality impugned, but man cannot exact vengeance on his fellow man. That is the key difference among the three cases of slavery we have been discussing. It has nothing to do at all with the severity of the treatment, and everything to do with who commanded it.

    Neufeld, apparently missing the fact that biblical teaching trivially places any Christian in opposition to man enslaving man, writes that Paul “failed” to condemn Roman slavery. Paul didn’t have to condemn slavery. There would be no question in anyone’s mind, anyone who understood Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching, that man-instituted slavery was immoral.

    The passage Neufeld quoted from Numbers makes the point quite clearly, so I am surprised he missed it:

    The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” (Num. 31:1, NIV)

    Moses didn’t attack the Midianites because of personal racial hatred; that would have been evil and no different than the Rwandan massacre. He did it at God’s command, therefore it was not evil. For all of Neufeld’s “would this or that type” of behavior be morally acceptable for the United States, the biblically-consistent answer is obvious: No, it would be gravely immoral. Perhaps a relevant though absurdly hypothetical question is: What if God (truly) commanded American Forces to annihilate Canada, and to kill every man, woman, and child, would it then be moral for us to obey that command? Yes, in fact it would be immoral not to.

    I picked Canada because I love and admire Canada. Neufeld misses the boat again by asking is any nation despicable enough that this action is moral? His question may be philosophically interesting, but theologically it is irrelevant. The despicability of the nation has nothing to do with it. We all are despicable. It would have been immoral for us, to decide as men, to kill all the noncombatants, women, and children of Germany in WWII. And it would be as immoral to refuse God’s direct order to wipe out any nation, regardless of their situation. (It goes without saying that the progression of redemptive and prophetic history gives us comfort that God will never issue such terrible commands again.)

    Neufeld calls actions commanded by God, as described in the example from Numbers 31, as morally wrong. This displays, for a Christian, a profound misunderstanding of fallen man’s standing (or absence thereof) before a Holy God.

    Again, just like for slavery, he creates what I think he views as a trap:

    “So if we ask the question, ‘Does the Bible condone slaughtering your enemies?’ the answer must be ‘Yes.'”

    The statement, like for slavery, is ill-formed because it is missing the key distinction. The point should be: Does the Bible condone slaughtering your enemies? The answer: yes if God commands it, for vengeance is His, but otherwise (rather so obviously that it shouldn’t be asked) no. There is no conundrum here for bible-believing Christians.

    Neufeld then goes on to discuss two his diagrams. He suggests that using the bible as an intermediary between God and man is something that modern conservative Christians do. That is true, but I think by wording it the way he did he attempts to imply that such an approach is something new and radical and inherently fundamentalist. His picture on the right, as it applies to special revelation, is a picture of Christianity from day one. It must not be viewed as a pictogram of fundamentalism. Yes, fundamentalists would state they abide by the picture on the right, but so would early Christians, Reformed Christians, and many others who are not fundamentalists. Even Rome, with its sacred tradition, would include the picture on the right as a partial description of special revelation and would not accept the picture on the left as descriptive of special revelation. (They would need another picture describing apostolic oral tradition.) The higher criticisms of the bible, in which one denies biblical inerrancy while at the same time still professing Christianity, that is the new, radical departure.

    However, his diagram on the left, with a bit of imagination, fits into traditional Christianity as well. It’s called science. Or, in more theological terms, general revelation. The bible does indeed tell us that we can learn about God apart from the bible by studying nature, so much so that all men are without excuse. And what we learn might be supplemental, but in no way can it be in opposition to the bible.

    But that is not what Neufeld means, is it? He sees the picture on the left as the approach he advocates: “directly listening to God”. I’ve been a Christian a little more than ten years. God has never spoken to me. I would like to ask Neufeld what God sounds like, and the particulars by which he “directly listens to God.”

    Neufeld speculates that Paul did not renounce Roman slavery for practical reasons. I think that is total nonsense. Paul’s Christian life was a testimony to impractical (from the world’s perspective) living. He gave up privilege for poverty, beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and martyrdom. If he thought fighting Roman slavery would further the kingdom of God, he would have done so unhesitatingly. Like Neufeld I must speculate: I believe Paul gave little thought to Roman slavery. It was in the noise compared to what he was concerned with. He sent Onesimus back because of the strong Christian testimony he would bear. Perhaps even the better that he should return, willingly, as a slave, to make his witness more powerful. The difference between Neufeld’s speculation of Paul’s concern for the practicality of fighting Roman slavery and the speculation that I just offered, that spreading the gospel was more important to Paul than worrying about fighting the Roman government, is that the latter is consistent with all we know of Paul while the former is not.

  15. I don’t read the Bible as necessarily mandating or requiring slavery. I do read it as God endorsing the practice as “okay” or permissible. And that, I think, is the heart of Brayton’s critique. It’s not that according to the Bible, the Southern slaveowners were “right” and the Northern abolitionists, “wrong,” but simply that God endorsed slavery at all in the Bible and neglected to outlaw it, like He outlawed so many other things.

    Nonetheless…David writes:

    “Paul didn’t have to condemn slavery. There would be no question in anyone’s mind, anyone who understood Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching, that man-instituted slavery was immoral.”

    I understand how one can extract a specific anti-slavery norm out of Jesus’s general teachings; after all, the Protestants in the 17th Century did do that. However, for the one thousand and some odd hundreds of years after Jesus death until the Quakers realized that slavery was wrong, few if any Christians read Jesus’s or Paul’s words as teaching “man-instituted slavery was immoral.”

  16. I find David’s comment to be very disturbing – he apparently seems to be arguing that you can do whatever you want as long as god commands it, because if god orders it then it’s not evil.

    That begs a couple of questions, none of which has a suitable answer:

    1) How do you know God is speaking with you? Or, how do you know that it is God that is speaking with you?
    2) If a God tells you to do something evil, why is that God not evil?

    I’m sure that David and other apologetics can provide answers to this, but answers that will do nothing but reaffirm my obhorrence to most things religious.

    Assuming that there is a God, he gave us a heart and a mind, and expects us to use it, and following our perception of him blindly to the point where it leads to wholesale slaughter of men, women, and children, is something you can leave me out of.

    It was a good post, Henry, and I definitely respect your attempt at finding the truth in a sea of lies and misrepresentations. Apparently those of a weak mind can’t fathom your point – I hope that they do eventually, for all of our sakes.

  17. Neufeld’s Christians apologetics are, based on this single post, non-biblical.

    I’m certain they are non-biblical according to your approach to the Bible. Remember that “biblical” and “non-biblical” will depend heavily on one’s approach to interpretation.

    I should say I refer only to those points that I understood, because some of the writing was, for me, impenetrable.

    It appears that, to you, some of the stuff you thought you understood was impenetrable as well.

    Your comment is long enough to be a substantial blog post in itself. For most of it, I’d suggest you read the essays I referenced. In some cases I may make blog entries later.

    One point I do want to comment on more immediately:

    Moses didn’t attack the Midianites because of personal racial hatred; that would have been evil and no different than the Rwandan massacre. He did it at God’s command, therefore it was not evil. For all of Neufeld’s “would this or that type

  18. “That you can make this statement is frankly frightening. Genocide is immoral. Even if you could provide miraculous proofs that God had instructed the United States to wipe out any entire country, it would only convince me of the demonic,”

    Do you realize that statement makes no sense whatsoever? If I could provide proof of God’s command to wipe out a nation (I don’t expect to, but that your premise) then you would take that proof only as evidence for the demonic? Are you saying “even if you prove it, I won’t believe it” or are you saying “if you prove it, then it only proves God is evil.” ?

    When you say “genocide is immoral” as if contrasting it to my opinion, you are misrepresenting me.

    “Statements like yours encourage me to continue to write forcefully about Biblical interpretation and to oppose the despicable notion that “God commanded it

  19. Do you realize that statement makes no sense whatsoever? If I could provide proof of God’s command to wipe out a nation (I don’t expect to, but that your premise) then you would take that proof only as evidence for the demonic? Are you saying “even if you prove it, I won’t believe it

  20. “I’m taking the test directly from Deuteronomy 13. Even if someone claims to speak for God, provides a sign, and the sign comes to pass, they are not to be obeyed if the call on you to worship other gods. I would suggest that calling on one to perform a grossly immoral act would fall into the same category.”

    That does not answer my question. In simplified form: If God really did command it, then what? Is it moral, or is God evil? Deflecting it with the obvious possibility of false prophets who might even deceive the elect (if that is possible) is just that: a deflection.

    The explanation for your misrepresentation of my position is leaning more towards the willful rather than the accidental. I am not defending genocide as moral–I am defending God-commanded genocide as moral.

    You are wrong about everyone picks and chooses. Anyone, like myself, who claims the bible is the word of God cannot “pick and choose.” That is why we have to deal with the difficult passages were God commands unspeakable acts, and not just argue that “my God would never do that, therefore those passages are human inventions. Oh, but the gospel part, I’ll keep that, because I like that God.”

  21. I don’t see it as a deflection, but as the basis of the point: if commanded to do something (you perceive as) immoral, how do you know the command is coming from God? Even in the presence of undeniable, h2g “miracles”, you, the fallible human, can’t know that you aren’t being deceived. What do you rely on first, your intuition as to what is right or what is wrong, or your ability to discern what is truly a command from God, and what is deception?

  22. That does not answer my question. In simplified form: If God really did command it, then what? Is it moral, or is God evil? Deflecting it with the obvious possibility of false prophets who might even deceive the elect (if that is possible) is just that: a deflection.

    I am deflecting a foolish question. The fact is that I could not be convinced that God was commanding an immoral action. My problem with your position is that you are very clearly convinced that he did.

    So if I was convinced that God commanded an immoral action I would then presumably be somebody else, and my answer would be irrelevant.

    If I correctly surmise what you’d like to get at, which is whether something is moral because God made it so, or whether there is some standard of morality to which one can hold God, I would simply say that God establishes morality, in my view, by establishing the functional laws of the universe. Within that system, God could not and would not order an immoral act. One test of whether something is ordered by God is whether it is moral.

    I don’t accept that morality comes only from special revelation. In fact, I make less of a distinction between special and general revelation. Thus again, I simply find your question flawed.

  23. I’d like to point out that some people falsely assume that 1st century slavery is identical to “new world” slavery. Please prove that 1st century slavery/servitude is identical! If there are differences (there are), your commiting a logical fallacy i.e. eqvocation.

  24. OK, dion, but in order to avoid a strawman argument, it would be valuable to show just what in my argument depends on modern slavery being the same as first century slavery.

    There is some relevance, but I would find Israelite, Roman, and modern slavery morally repugnant. In fact, I think the claim that Roman slavery was fundamentally different from modern slavery is one of the weakest dodges I’ve ever encountered. Each version of slavery differs from other versions, but all are morally wrong.

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